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SNP ministers accused of presiding over a ‘culture of secrecy’

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Published Time: 12.02.2024 - 21:40:40 Modified Time: 12.02.2024 - 21:40:40

Labour says administration is flouting transparency laws with fewer than a third of FOI requests answered in full within 20-day time limit JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES SNP ministers have been accused of presiding over a “culture of secrecy” after new evidence emerged that they were flouting transparency laws

Labour says administration is flouting transparency laws with fewer than a third of FOI requests answered in full within 20-day time limit

: JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

SNP ministers have been accused of presiding over a “culture of secrecy” after new evidence emerged that they were flouting transparency laws.

According to figures obtained by Scottish Labour, fewer than a third of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were answered in full and within a 20 working day legal limit.

It follows the Scottish Information Commissioner revealing earlier this month he would launch an investigation into the Scottish Government’s retention of informal messaging following scrutiny over deleted WhatsApps at the UK Covid Inquiry.

Messages that were obtained by the inquiry appeared to show senior Scottish Government officials joking with one another about how to defeat FOI requests by deleting messages, therefore ensuring it would be impossible to ever disclose them.

The Scottish Government issued a full response within the 20-day timescale for 1,434 FOI requests in 2023, according to Scottish Labour figures.

However, last year 4,459 were received – meaning about 68 per cent were either late, refused or redacted.

While it is lawful to turn down requests if certain exemptions apply, they should all be answered within 20 working days.

‘Stifle scrutiny’

“Once again the SNP is treating the public with contempt and attempting to stifle scrutiny,” Dame Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said.

“Time and time again we see the SNP’s disregard for transparency on display, from their woeful record on FOIs to the shameful destruction of evidence during the Covid pandemic.

‘Necessary exemptions’

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